Serious Eats: Drinks
My Favorite Happy Hour: Discount Bottles of Wine
I love a good cocktail happy hour, or $3-any-pint happy hour, or "free snacks with your drinks!" happy hour, but I've recently discovered a new favorite: the full-bottle-of-wine happy hour.
I can't believe it's taken me five years of living in New York City to discover 8th Street Wine Cellar, but ever since I have, I've been there almost weekly. Why? Their $18 happy hour. Every day, from 4pm–7pm, a dozen different wines sell for $18/bottle. It's a spread of crowd-pleasing but totally drinkable selections—I've had good luck with a Syrah-Grenache rosé, a Cava Brut that's otherwise $9/glass, and a gutsy but balanced Garnacha. It's the latter I get when I'm nibbling through their more-than-decent sandwiches or small toasts, the former two when I just want something to knock back on a warm afternoon.
Here's the beauty of the system. When I'm looking for a happy hour, I'm generally in the mood for two-okay-maybe-a-third-but-a-small-one drinks, which is exactly what a split happy hour bottle gets me. For nine dollars. And it cuts out the inherent anxiety that is the buzzkill of many a happy hour—the need to pound drinks before your clock runs out. There's nothing relaxing about the nagging anxiety that you need to down one beer and order another before 6:59pm; and the whole point of happy hour is to unwind a bit. With the bottle system, you just need to get an order in, grab a seat, and you're done. The bottle is yours.
(And not that I'm endorsing two people splitting two bottles of wine before dinner, but you can go that level of crazy and still walk out for just a little over $20, after tip.)
I'm also continually surprised by how quiet the place is—never empty, but I've never waited for a seat, which for a friendly wine bar in the West Village, borders on miraculous.
8th Street is going to stay my hang for awhile, but it's gotten me curious about other such happy hours. Do you know of any other bars that do whole bottles for a steep discount? And how have you found the experience, if you do?